Apocalyptic, as a term in the common vernacular or dictionary definition, means something that is written in an ominous, threatening way. It is scary, thwarting, and about boding evil. The dictionary tells us it is presaging people of imminent disaster, exaggerated predictions, or allusions of the Last Days. However, this is not what it meant in the original Greek or Hebrew or in the time this term was penned. What did it mean? It means “discourser of events,” and that is what it literally and truly means to us today, too. It also means an “uncovering” or “unveiling,” and “Revelation” means “discourser of the apocalypse.”
Apocalyptic is not meant to scare us or keep us away from interpreting Scripture; rather, it is meant to help us understand God, victory, hope, grace, God’s plan, and that He is indeed in control. The only people who should be scared are those who reject and hate Christ. When we see how this literature operates, it will help us greatly as it discloses for us the unfolding of historical events-past, present, and future, with God’s plan and purpose being the ultimate goal. Thus, if we take the time and effort to understand this type of genre, it will make things clearer for us—it will expose, not conceal what God has for us.
We need to realize that all languages use symbols and metaphors including Greek and Hebrew, and thus, the Bible. If we assume a word is literal when it is not, we will make an erroneous conclusion that will lead us and others away from the correct precept.
Then, if we teach it, we lead others astray from the correct teaching all because of our pride or ignorance of not correctly interpreting Scripture or reading the Bible for all that it is worth. For example, a parable should not be treated as history, nor should poetry (both of which contain many symbols) be treated as straightforward narrative; the same goes for apocalyptic literature.
Most of the apocalyptic literature in Daniel and Revelation came to the writer as inspired by the Holy Spirit in visions. These are visions that came to them from God and/or an Angel, with imageries that need to be put into human based words, but no words have the power or substance to contain the meaning. Hence, a metaphor is used, as it is able to contain far more information about the “secrets” of Heaven and End Times than what a few sentences could. These images are usually explained and known to the writer and audience, but not so much to us today (Dan. 7–12; Rev. 4:9).